MAK YONG – A beautiful and ancient form of dance theatre

MAK YONG  is an ancient theatre form – combining  acting, vocal and instrumental music, gestures and elaborate costumes. Specific to the villages of Kelantan in northwest Malaysia, where the tradition originated, MAK YONG is performed mainly as entertainment or for ritual purposes related to healing practices.

Experts believe that MAK YONG appeared well before the Islamization of the country. It was performed as a royal theatre under the direct patronage of the Kelantan Sultanate until the 1920s. Hence, the tradition was perpetuated in a rural context without forsaking the numerous refinements acquired at court, such as sophisticated costume design. A typical Mak Yong performance opens with an offering followed by dances, acting and music as well as improvised monologues and dialogues.

Image by : Ahmad Zakii Anwar

A single story can be presented over several consecutive nights in a series of three-hour performances. In the traditional village setting, the performances are held on a temporary open stage built of wood and palm leaves. The audience sits on three sides of the stage, the fourth side being reserved for the orchestra consisting of a three-stringed spiked fiddle (rebab), a pair of doubleheaded barrel drums (gendang) and hanging knobbed gongs (tetawak).

It is traditionally staged in a round – which allows the audience to surround the performance and experience the event from multiple perspectives.

The close proximity provides an immediate connection between the performers and the audience – which allows the members of the audience to observe minute details of the MAK YONG performance.

Most roles are performed by women, and the stories are based on ancient Malay folk tales peopled with royal characters, divinities and clowns. MAK YONG  is also associated with rituals in which shamans attempt to heal through song, trance-dance and spirit possession.

Image by : Ahmad Zakii Anwar
Image : Ahmad Zakii Anwar

The stylised movements of the MAK YONG  involve subtle gestures of hand and arm, soft hand positions, slow steps and graceful turns. The principal roles are pak yong (lead male character), mak yong (lead female character) and peran (clown or attendant). The repertoire consists of 12 main stories including Dewa Muda, Dewa Pechil and Anak Raja Gondang. The stories of the MAK YONG  mostly recount the adventures and destinies of royal-celestial figures, rooted in the mythology of the old Kelantan-Pattani Sultanates, dating back to the Srivijaya Empire (7th-13th Century). A few of these stories are derived from Buddhist Jataka tales. The most elaborate sequence in a MAK YONG performance is the opening song, menghadap rebab, during which the dancers face east in salutation to the rebab (spike fiddle) before the main story unfolds.

Mak Yong, requires long years of training, has been preserved until the present largely through oral transmission. In today’s society, few young people are willing to commit to such rigorous apprenticeships. As a result, this important tradition is undergoing steady decline, as attested by reduced dramatic and musical repertories and a shortage of seasoned performers.

In the past theatre troupes would travel throughout northern Malaysia, southern Thailand, and the Riau archipelago of Indonesia. Incorporated into national displays of Malaysian cultural heritage since the mid-1970s, Mak Yong was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005. The UNESCO intangible cultural heritage (ICH) designation for Mak Yong was filed and accepted while the ancient dance form  was officially banned in its home state of Kelantan by overzealous religious leaders.

Image : Ahmad Zakii Anwar

In Kelantan today, art forms continue to hit against the wall of these overzealous leaders, however there has been pressure in the opposite direction too, with traditional art activists urging the state government to drop its stance for these ancient and beautiful art forms to thrive.

The Kelantan state government lifted its ban in on the dance in 2019 after more than two decades. At the time the state’s deputy chief minister Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah however said those who wish to stage the dance can only do so after they comply with syariah requirements and guidelines, that include making it compulsory for MAK YONG performers to cover their aurat. ( certain parts of the body, which is considered compulsory to be covered)

The organisers also need to ensure separation between men and women on stage and in the audience – and to ensure that there is no element of ritual worship in the performances. Before MAK YONG was traditionally performed by troupes specific to each locality, but its now mostly performed in a more puritanical way by state-sanctioned arts groups.

Looking at the Malay World Through Textiles – The Azah Aziz Collection – Part 1

‘Alam Melayu’ Map ( courtesy of the Islamic International University website)

When we talk about the Malay World, we often think of the Malays living predominantly in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore who speak Malay and live a Malay based culture, tradition, and lifestyle. What do textiles tell us about the Malay world? Is it a different Malay world than we imagine?

When we look at the map of the Malay world, do we think of the Malay world when we see Flores, Sumba, Maluku and Banjarmasin? What about Visayan, Luzon and Mindanao? The Malay race has also been recorded living in Taiwan and Madagascar.Recently, we had the privilege of accessing a textile collection of a well-known champion of Malay culture, the late Azah Aziz. The bulk of the textile collection is currently at Muzium Seni Asia or Museum of Asian Art.

Whilst the Asian Art Museum is located at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, historically, it began life as a museum in 1955 as the University of Malaya Art Museum in Singapore. The late Royal Professor Dr. Ungku Aziz (who is married to Azah Aziz) as Vice Chancellor expanded the museum after 1963 when Malaysia was separated from Singapore. William Young Willett became the first Museum Director in 1973 and curated the museum collection for the next 10 years. The museum is now home to over 7000 artifacts from Asia including textiles, ceramics, stone sculptures and it claims to have the world’s largest collection of water vessels.

When we first viewed the Azah Aziz textile collection at the museum, the textiles tell a story about how diverse the Malay world is. The Malay world textiles such as batik, songket, songket limar, telepok, keringkam and tenun show how the Malay culture has been deeply connected to the world and other cultural expressions for centuries through textiles. For example, we discovered two outstanding and rare pieces of Indonesian batik by Dutch batik artist Eliza Van Zuylen in the collection, a vibrant Patola cloth of Gujarat, India usually worn by royal and aristocratic families and woven Tenun sarongs with brilliant, deep color palettes and abstract styles and techniques evocative of Rothko paintings.

Textiles have the ability to tell more nuanced stories about a culture. They can confirm or provide alternative narratives, or debunk myths about how people lived and what influenced them. Textiles can provide us the unwritten and the unsaid history. Studying the “language” of textiles through deciphering meanings, symbols, patterns and colour codes enrich our understanding of the past, enlighten the present and give us glimpses of the shape of the future.

We are excited about a new project that requires us to examine the important Azah Aziz textile collection up close, giving us significant insights into the wider Malay world. Azah Aziz and her mother, Azizah Jaafar were pioneers in championing Malay culture and collecting Malay world textiles. Their way of seeing and understanding the Malay World was unique and personal.

The Late Azizah Jaafar
The Late Azah Aziz

In Azah Aziz’s seminal book on Malay costumes “Rupa dan Gaya Busana Melayu”, she had researched and highlighted Malay classical literature that provided lyrical insights on how Malays lived with their textiles and how textiles became indicators of power, rank, nobility, social hierarchy, marital status, gender amongst others. These insights would not have been written in conventional history books and therefore, our knowledge and perception of an ancient world become richer because of her. Her textile collection is a veritable gold mine of knowledge and codes of behaviour on a fascinating Malay world for successive generations to discover and decipher.

A diamond in the rough: Kota Bahru

At a glance, Kota Bharu has acquired a feel of a decaying town. The buildings and roads lack upkeep and shine, landscaping is bare and half-hearted and pedestrian pavements are almost non-existent. The city looks like it is stuck in a time warp but without the old charm of an old town. Most of all the streets require a massive clean up.

It is clear that the lack of investment and adequate attention to place making in public spaces have taken its toll on Kota Bharu. However, when we take the time to look more closely into the more hidden private spaces, we discovered there was more than that meets the eye in Kota Bharu. Enterprising Kelantanese make up for the absence of impactful public sector investment in their own way.

To our surprise, the café scene in Kota Bharu is alive and buzzy. Kopi Mesin Heritage is one of the few independent cafes that have been mushrooming in Kota Bharu. When we were there during lunch and in the evening, it was full of people.

The interior is full of interesting old and intriguing photographs of Kota Bharu and the Kelantanese life. Upstairs, led by brightly painted stairs to reflect the Chinese temple colours near by, one can admire sketches and paintings of wayang kulit characters by the co-owner and intriguing selections of vintage items.

The café serves local specialities such as keropok lekor as well as a modified Western menu, and a comprehensive, imaginative drinks list including of course, “kopi mesin”. We were told by the co-owner and founder, Haniza Hassan that the idea for the name came about as the Kelantanese refer to western coffee as “machine coffee”.

Around the corner from the café, there were more surprises. A series of back lanes that have been cleaned up and planted with trees. The back lanes and the walls behind Kopi Mesin Heritage are now freshly transformed with colourful murals and a pleasant landscape of trees.

The murals depict local Kelantan scenes and the familiar faces of Kelantan with a touch of local humour. The famous Kelantanese nasi kerabu biru  (blue herb rice) is a prominent feature, and so is Dato’ Vida, the famously (or infamously) flamboyant local cosmetic entrepreneur. The murals are a result of collaboration between the Kota Bahru council, National Art Gallery and an art collective in Kelantan called Peseni. We genuinely enjoyed ourselves touring the mural backlanes.

Inspired by the café scene, we headed to two café institutions in Kota Bharu – The White House café, a paradoxically humble kopitiam – an old style Chinese café – that serves their signature locally ground coffee with soft, thick toasts slathered with butter and kaya (coconut jam). We found joy in this simple café. For lunch, we decided to go to the second café – the unusually named Din Tokyo. We had a simple lunch of laksam – a refreshing light dish of rice rolls with fish sauce with a sprinkle of mixed herbs and chilli sambal on the side.

I ended with their ginger and quail egg tea, their specialty. Our verdict is that Kota Bharu is a diamond in the rough – underneath the dusty exterior, there are shining gems.   

suryanisenjasuryanisenja@gmail.com

The Remaking of a National Craft Retail Space

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Karyaneka’s look before the remodelling

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What makes a craft retail space attractive to a customer? What do people look for when they want to buy crafts? How can we tell the story of crafts in a shop? What can a national craft retail store offer that no other store can offer? These are some of the questions that went through my mind when re-thinking the concept of the national craft retail store, Karyaneka.

Karyaneka is the retail arm of Kraftangan Malaysia, the national handicraft development corporation of Malaysia. Karyaneka is tasked with promoting and marketing our local artisans and their crafts through its retail outlets. There are four major craft complexes in the country namely in KL, Langkawi, Melaka and Johor whilst other smaller outlets are in selective airports and other cities.

 

Every year during National Craft Day, hundreds of artisans from all over Malaysia set up booths at Kompleks Kraf KL, at Jalan Conlay, KL, which is where Kraftangan Malaysia is headquartered and Karyaneka flagship store is located . This year was supposed to be a special National Craft Day as it is Visit Malaysia Year 2020. Karyaneka was asked to present a special display of craft for visitors. It was an opportunity to refresh Karyaneka’s flagship store.

Branding Craft – What is in a Name?

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I spent some time with Karyaneka team, designer Imaya Wong  to brainstorm and re-conceptualise Karyaneka as brand that is strong on the heritage of crafts but contemporary in display and presentation.

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I felt in our discussions that Karyaneka had very strong elements residing within its own name: “Karya” could represent artistic creations of crafts by highly skilled artisans with high artistic value;  “Aneka” could represent the diversity of Malaysian crafts and how versatile Malaysian crafts from a variety of natural materials can be used in our everyday life. Finally “Neka” could represent designer crafts that have evolved from traditional crafts through the language of contemporary designs.

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Storytelling Craft

What would be unique about Karyaneka that you could not get anywhere else? I strongly felt that as a national craft retail store, Karyaneka could offer uniquely featured products by virtue of access to master crafts persons and artisan communities from all over Malaysia including from remote parts of the country.

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Malaysia’s heritage and knowledge of crafts are being kept alive by our unique Adigurus, a selection of master craftspersons from all over Malaysia who have been awarded the title “Adiguru” by Kraftangan to acknowledge their superior craftsmanship.

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In addition, Kraftangan’s artisan community outreach is far and wide – they have access to almost 6000 artisans and artisan entrepreneurs including in rural and remote areas.

 

With these elements in mind, the design team re-conceptualized a dedicated space in Karyaneka in time for National Craft Day. The newly designed space created sections based on Karya, Aneka and Neka. To distinguish Karyaneka from the ordinary craft stores, we created a special mini exhibition space displaying a selection of Adiguru crafts, highlighting the personal story of each Adiguru.

Storytelling is vital for the national craft retail store as people still have a relatively low level of awareness on Malaysian crafts. An engagement with customers through storytelling often brings about a higher level of awareness and a real appreciation of the value of crafts. With this in mind, the visitors to the new Karyaneka section was greeted by a write up on the introduction to Malaysian crafts, the Adiguru exhibition write ups and each section of Karyaneka had descriptions of crafts and the featured craft brands.

 

The story of Malaysian craft continues in the Neka section with a crop of new designers who have used a different design language to interpret traditional crafts – these stories need to be told. We featured craft designs by Bendang Studio, Studio Bikin, Batik Tektura, Tanoti House, Ruzz Gahara, Dapo and Muni amongst others to showcase how Malaysian designers are paving the way for traditional crafts to evolve into innovative design items.

 

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Craft, Architecture and Technology

In addition, the two latest initiatives by Kraftangan Malaysia to document and highlight Malaysian crafts internationally were displayed in Karyaneka. These initiatives highlight the important role with Kraftangan and Karyaneka of championing and bringing Malaysian crafts to the world. The following projects also indicate how craft can firmly be part of and enrich the Malaysian creative industry ecosystem.IMG_7284

First, the Google Arts & Culture Project became a reality when Kraftangan Malaysia became the first cultural institution in Malaysia to be Google’s partner. On 20th February 2020, the first 100 craft images of Malaysia were uploaded on Google online museum, creating the first global footprint of Malaysian crafts online. This means that Malaysian crafts are now accessible for study, research, reference and inspiration for the global online community.

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The second project involved collaboration between craft, architecture and digital technology for a biennale in Hong Kong. An installation made of hand woven traditional mats by artisans in Terengganu was designed and built to display as an architecture pavilion.

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The mats included a QR code woven into the mats as motifs that would enable the international audience to scan and discover the story of Malaysian weavers through a website. This pavilion called “Woven Matness” was displayed at the “2019 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture” in Hong Kong from December 2019. Malaysian architect Shin Tseng and his creative partners, Digital Creative Director Fadil Fuad of C27 and Designer Wen Yee Kok of Studio Wen teamed up with Kraftangan Malaysia who sourced the traditional colorful “Daun Mengkuang” (screw pine leaves) mats from artisans in the east coast state of Terengganu, Malaysia. Fadil designed the QR code that would be woven into plain, natural colored mats.

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The images of the exhibition in Hong Kong and the creative process for the design of the pavilion were put up on National Craft Day and remains to be exhibited in Karyaneka.

Craft is Instagrammable

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Finally, in the age of social media, what would attract crowds to engage in a craft store? Instagrammable spaces of course! Imaya designed a few areas in Karyaneka that highlight craft products as Instagram friendly shots.

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These “instagrammable” spaces became a big hit during National Craft Day especially the ones featuring Ranee Artisan’s colourful basket trays made of recycled standing fan covers and hand woven by Long House communities in Sarawak, pop and techno colored mats on various walls woven by Bajau Laut communities on islands in Sabah and an area of hanging baskets that came from all over Malaysia.

Re-thinking Craft Retail Space

Although we still have a long way to go to revive Malaysian crafts and make our artisans known nationally and internationally, the re-making of Karyaneka retail space opened up the space for re-thinking, re-learning and representing our crafts.  Malaysians and non-Malaysians are starting to engage with our national, living heritage of crafts differently, simply because we made an effort by telling the story of craft through the new mediums of art, design and technology.

A Journey Into Tibetan Culture and Meeting the Artisans of Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, India.

 

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The Tibetan culture is a unique culture grounded on Tibetan Buddhism.

The Norbulingka Institute is a Tibetan cultural institute set up in 1995 in Dharamshala, India to help preserve Tibetan art and culture, and create jobs for Tibetans through its social enterprises. We had the opportunity to experience Tibetan culture in this beautifully designed cultural space. A Japanese architect designed Norbulingka Institute, and the design is based on and is inspired by the summer palace with the same name, Norbulingka, in Tibet. Norbulingka is a lovely sample of Tibetan architecture, colourful, with intricate carvings, surrounded by pleasing gardens and ponds.

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Norbulingka introduced a holistic experience in Tibetan Buddhist civilization and culture through authentic Tibetan craft, spiritual works of art, Tibetan food and hospitality. In the midst of it all, a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist temple in Norbulingka displays the craftsmanship of Norbulingka artisans through an exquisite gigantic Thangka appliqué art hangings and carvings.

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At the Institute, one can find a series of artisan studios and workshops arranged based on materials such as wood and metal. In each workshop, visitors can meet the artisans, learn about the materials and process of making each craft as well as learn the meaning of each craft in Tibetan culture.

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The most interesting workshop or studio we visited was the Thangka art painting studio at the Norbulingka. Thangka is a Tibetan scroll painting of intricate images of deities from Tibetan Buddhism on canvas that are coloured with natural dyes and minerals.

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According to the Norbulingka Institute, the Thangka painting is a sacred art traced back to the 7th century in Nepal that evolved into several schools of paintings. Thangka paintings are not only aesthetic objects but they are used by Tibetans to aid meditation by strengthening concentration on a particular Buddhist deity.

On our visit to the Thangka art studio at Norbulingka, we were able to watch artisans mix the colours from natural materials like saffron and lapis lazuli and the Thangka artists create outlines and paint.

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The Norbulingka website details out the process of creating a Thangka that can take up to six weeks per Thangka: “To make a thangka, first a piece of canvas is stitched onto a wooden frame. It is prepared with a mixture of chalk, gesso, and base pigment, and rubbed smooth with a glass until the texture of the cloth is no longer apparent. The outline of the deity is sketched in pencil onto the canvas using iconographic grids, and then outlined in black ink.

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Powders composed of crushed mineral and vegetable pigments are mixed with water and adhesive to create paint. Some of the elements used are quite precious, such as lapis lazuli for dark blue. Landscape elements are blocked in and shading is applied using both wet and dry brush techniques. Finally, a pure gold paint is added, and the thangka is framed in a precious brocade boarder. A standard Thangka in our collection, which is about 18 x 12 in takes an artist about six weeks to complete.”

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Our visit to Norbulingka impressed upon us the importance of how to preserve art, heritage and culture more meaningfully and comprehensively through incorporating architecture, design, food, and workshops.

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In addition to that, Norbulingka has succeeded in incorporating concepts of sustainability and community elements through promoting and preserving an authentic culture by creating social enterprises and programs that benefit Tibetans.

 

They run a craft shop, craft workshops and three guesthouses with Tibetan themes incorporating handmade Tibetan crafts and provide jobs to Tibetans. We do have a lot to learn from other cultures, and this visit has opened our eyes on many different ways to preserve culture, arts and heritage.

East Coast of Malaysia : The Cultural and Craft Hub

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Malaysians are fortunate that we still live close to our culture, traditions and craft. Our culture has provided us beautiful and useful objects as well as a sense of community and belonging to a distinct and rich culture. The East coast of Malaysia namely the states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang are particularly known for their textile culture. Batik, songket, tenun and telepuk are some of the known textiles that are still made and designed by hand either on the loom or in the case of batik, with the wax resist and dye along with brushing technique.  Other major crafts in the East Coast of Malaysia include wood-carving, silver-smithing, copper and the art of weaving mats from rattan or pandan leaves.

On a trip to the Pesta Kraf Pantai Timur (East Coast Craft Festival) recently, Senijari’s founder and creative director discovered that our artisans remain committed to their craft and that craft culture is alive and well. However, the outside world seems unaware of our heritage, or at least knows little about them. We need to find creative ways to tell our craft and artisan stories better and broadcast them to the wider world so that more know about our wonderful heritage of handicrafts.

One of the highlights of the trip was meeting two artisans who were given the award of “Adiguru 2018”. The Adiguru is an award by Kraftangan Malaysia that recognizes the mastery of craft by master artisans who can also teach their craft. The master artisan who is awarded the Adiguru title receives a cash prize and a monthly stipend for a fixed period of time.

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Pak Non, the Master Wau maker was awarded the Adiguru title in 2018 for creating the unique 5-layer carved motifs for traditional kites based on the Wau Kelantan – most kites are made with only 3 layers of carved motifs on coloured paper. Pak Non, who is passionate about his Wau craft, cites nature, especially the surrounding paddy fields as his inspiration.

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Even though he makes the Wau Kelantan, he actually resides in Kedah and goes for kite flying competitions with his kite creations. He says that the competition for the best traditional kites is based on how the kite looks on the ground and how high the kite can fly – so the Wau is assessed both on its physical beauty on earth as well as its technical prowess in the sky.

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Cik Kalsom, a petite and diminutive mat weaver from Terengganu is passionate about and proud of her masterful skills. She was awarded the Adiguru title in 2018 for her mastery of weaving mats and other products using the intricate and complex “kelerai” technique, with soft pandan leaves.

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This technique according to her is backbreaking and not easy to learn. She laments that the younger generation is not as patient when learning, and usually end up adopting easier techniques of weaving that are not as intricate as the “kelerai” technique.

She continues to weave despite her back aches, as she says that it is reward enough when she sees a piece of mat of complex patterns completed, the sense of accomplishment and pride at her skill motivates to once again continue.

The Pesta Kraf Pantai Timur in Kelantan and Terengganu displayed some of the best artisans and their work in batik, songket, wood carving, silver and copper.

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We visited batik workshops in Kelantan that were highlighted for their authentic and traditional batik block print and wax resist techniques. One workshop, Ayu Batik, was remarkable for their environmentally friendly approach by recycling water used to wash the dye off the batik textiles as well as recycling the wax used for the batik dyeing and colouring process.

 

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Ayu Batik has an incredible collection over 5000 batik block prints dated from the 60’s, some of which are meticulously restored and showcased. Its legacy continues with the owner and his son who continues designing with the authentic block print technique for batik.

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In Terengganu, the wood carving association at Desa Ukiran Kayu in Besut presented their impressive skills in traditional wood carving in a beautiful gallery at the Desa Ukiran Kayu.

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It was eye opening to meet the Master Malay Wood Carver Norhaiza Noordin (norhaizanoordin.wordpress.com). He has used his talents not only for wood carving, but he has created a stunning private art space and a residency for wood carving students that has to be experienced called Bakawali in Kg. Raja, Besut,Terengganu.

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After the visit to the East Coast, we have no doubt that craft and the mastery of craft in Malaysia are alive and well. Now we just need to tell the world about them.  

Galeri Tenun Johor – The Launch and Revival of Weaving Gallery in Johor

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In January this year, we dedicated a blog to Johor’s Kain Tenun Muar and the setting up of a weaving gallery in Johor. 10 months later, in 18 November 2018, Galeri Tenun Johor opened its doors. It is situated within the “Kompleks Warisan Sultan Abu Bakar” (The Heritage Complex of Sultan Abu Bakar) and was launched yesterday by the the  Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.

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The gallery has revived the historical Rumah Tenun Johor, the first weaving centre that was initiated by Tengku Ampuan Mariam, the eldest daughter of Sultan Abu Bakar in 1946, and administered by Tok Ambak, a prominent figure of the Johor’s women’s association.  The Heritage Complex includes the Johor weaving gallery, an art gallery, a documentation center and a number of cafes serving Johor food.

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The famous “goreng pisang Mawar” or Johor style crispy banana fritters is also situated within this complex. Right across, the historical craft center of JARO, which promotes crafts made by the disabled, is undergoing renovations, and will also be re-opened soon.

Galeri Tenun Johor has been set up not only to display the heritage of Malay textiles and Johor’s history of textiles. More importantly, it aims to revive the weaving heritage in Johor by installing and training new weavers at the center, and it actively promotes innovation in Songket.

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The gallery showcases not only old textiles from the region, but newly woven cloths in the style of Kain Tenun Muar as well as 10 new songket motifs that were designed specifically for Johor.Among them are Songket designed for the royal family of Johor such as Songket Johor Jauhar and Songket Johor Medini Songket Johor Maharani, two types of Songket Tunku Mahkota Johor and Songket Johor Tanjung Puteri.  Other designs were created specially for the people of Johor, using Johor-inspired motifs of flowers, herbs and spices. They are Songket Tenun Johor, Songket Johor Tanjung Piai,  Songket Johor Mayang Selida and Tenun Johor Berbunga Renek.

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The textiles are displayed with interesting information on the motifs. There are also informative panels in the gallery on the history of Malay textiles, the process of producing hand woven textiles using the traditional techniques and the design combinations and inspiration that made up the motifs of Songket Johor.

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The handlooms for different types of textiles as well as accessories, which are usually worn with Malay costumes, are displayed in the upper gallery. A video of Johor Malay dance like zapin with dancers in traditional costumes livened up the gallery, showing how the Malay community wears the traditional textiles in their everyday lives and during special occasions.

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Senijari’s founder, who is also a board member of Think City attended the launch in her capacity as Think City’s director. Think City played a role in assisting with designing and creating a selection of the text and photo displays for the content and descriptions of the exhibitions in the gallery through photography, write ups, informative signage and labeling. Galeri Tenun in collaboration with Think City are expected to create interesting cultural programs at the gallery from next year.

With the revival of this cultural hub, along with the burgeoning heritage area of vintage shops, hipster cafes, art galleries and independent boutiques along the historical Jalan Dhoby and Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Johor Bahru is shaping up to be a creative and cultural city.